I measure my life by birthday parties.
I measure the stability of my marriage by the number of hours I spend in the kitchen versus the number of episodes my husband watches from the couch, the strength of our marriage by our ability to communicate telepathically about paper streamers (seriously, who doesn’t twist streamers before taping them to the ceiling?) and the placement of the purple napkins.
I measure my worth as a mother by the amount of pink ribbons made from natural food coloring on the cake and the ratio of homemade to store-bought food, my success in parenting by the quantity of products on my table lacking high-fructose corn syrup in exchange for something crafted from my own hands.
I measure my growth as an adult by the time on the clock when I finally crawl into bed and the number of minutes I finish preparing before (or after) the guests arrive, my progress as a homemaker by whether or not they see dust bunnies or carpet lines when they walk through the front door.
And I measure the healthiness of my mental state by the expression on my face and the direction of my brows as I fumble with goodie bags and twist-ties, the condition of my heart by the genuineness of my smile and whether or not I’m relaxed or pretending to relax and enjoy the party.
Because we all do it. We all have our different coffee spoons by which we measure our lives. And we drift through our days holding up those measuring sticks and scratching out our little pencil marks reminding ourselves how our performance stacked up against other days’, how far we still have to go, how imperfect we really are.
We allow ourselves to fret and worry about a score card that is graded solely by us, the red pen marks bolder and harsher than any we received in school. And we let our poor grades interfere with enjoying our greatest accomplishments.
Or maybe that’s just me.
I’ve thrown 11 kid birthday parties now, and while I learned my lesson and threw out the score card on party #9, I still find old cards hidden in the junk drawer. I’m tempted to reassess and get out my red pen. But I can’t because the score doesn’t matter.
The score will never be perfect.
But the memories, yes, the memories of bright eyes and wide smiles, hugs with family and laughter with friends–these are the sticks by which to measure life.
‘The memories of heartache and tears and gentle fingers ready to catch them as they rolled down my cheek–these are the sticks by which to measure life.
The memories of times when no words were spoken, but we sat together and waited together and endured together–these are the sticks by which to measure life.
The times spent with others; pouring into each other; living life, the good, the bad–all of it–these are the sticks by which I will measure life because these are what will endure long after I don’t; these are what matter.
Not the coffee spoons. Not the paper streamers. Not the lack of high-fructose corn syrup (No, I can’t write it. Eliminating high-fructose corn syrup totally matters). But those who used the coffee spoons and sat under the straight streamers and ate the natural food–they are who matter.
Hannah Grace, you will always matter to me. I made the mistake earlier on of not enjoying every moment because I was too stressed out trying to create it. And while I still have those moments when I fall back into my perfectionist mode, I’m doing better. You’re too special to not enjoy every moment with you and your brother and sister. I hope you enjoyed your 4th birthday party, every minute of it, because I enjoyed every minute that I watched that beautiful smile on your face. I love you, Mommy.
By what do you measure your life? By what do you base your figurative score card?